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NSA Warns Several Countries Have Ability To Shutdown U.S. Infrastructure

November 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China and “probably one or two” other countries have the ability to invade and possibly shut down computer systems of U.S. power utilities, aviation networks and financial companies, Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the U.S. National Security Agency said.

Testifying to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on cyber threats, Rogers said digital attackers have been able to penetrate such systems and perform “reconnaissance” missions to determine how the networks are put together.

“What concerns us is that access, that capability, can be used by nation-states, groups or individuals to take down that capability,” he said.

Rogers said China was one of the countries with that capability, but that there were others.

“There’s probably one or two others,” he said, declining to elaborate in a public setting.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Chinese government “forbids” cyber hacking and that it is often a victim of such attacks that originate from the United States.

“The Chinese government resolutely cracks down on these activities. This reality is irrefutable,” Hong told reporters at a regular press briefing late last week.

 

 

4K Monitors Fall Below $500

November 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Prices for 4K monitors have fallen below $500, bringing them within the reach of cost-conscious buyers looking to replace 1080p displays.

The prices have been falling steadily from $700 or more earlier this year. 4K monitors are available from Samsung, Sharp, Dell, Asus, Acer, Monoprice and small vendors.

4K gives a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, or four times deeper than conventional 1080p resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Dell is selling its 28 Ultra HD P2815Q monitor for $449.99, down from $699.99 when the product started shipping earlier this year. Newegg is selling 28-inch monitors from AOC and Planar for $499.99.

Samsung has also dropped the price of its 28-inch 4K monitor, the UD590, which is now selling for $599.99 through retailers like Best Buy and Newegg.

Not all 4K prices have dipped so low. Lenovo’s ThinkVision 28-inch Pro2840m is still selling for $799.99. It was announced in January and started shipping around the middle of the year.

It’s important to check all the features on lower priced monitors. They often have a all the main features and ports but suffer on refresh rates, which affect the display’s ability to cope with fast-moving images. For example, Dell’s P2815Q monitor has been criticized for its 30Hz refresh rate. Samsung’s UD590 has the more desirable 60Hz refresh rate via its DisplayPort 1.2, but it drops to 30Hz when connected to a PC via the HDMI port.

Increased competition is bringing prices down, as monitor makers try to attract buyers. Intel recently predicted that 4K monitor prices will fall to below $400 by the end of this year.

As with the other types of computer hardware, prices will continue to fall quickly over the next couple of years and then more gradually after that, said Jonathan Gaw, a research manager at IDC.

 

 

 

Apple Pay Enjoys Success As More Retailers Jump Onboard

November 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. consumers have been leery of in-store mobile payments for years, but Apple Pay is making gains in that area just a month after the service launched Oct. 20.

Apple’s latest success with Apple Pay includes the addition of support from hundreds of grocery stores within six major chains in the past week: BiLo Holding, 830 stores; Harvey’s and Winn-Dixie, 530; Albertson’s and Jewel-Osco, 180; Shaws and Star Markets, 150; United Food Stores, 60; and Associated Food Stores, 135. Wegmans and Whole Foods were already part of the original 35 retail chains offering Apple Pay in an estimated 225,000 stores, about 5% of all possible U.S. retail locations.

In addition, on Thursday, American First Credit Union said its Visa card now supports Apple Pay, joining more than 500 U.S. banks already supporting the service through Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards.

In the past week, SunTrust and Regions Bank added their support.

McDonald’s has confirmed that more than 50% of its in-store mobile payments at 14,000 restaurants were made with Apple Pay in its first month. Whole Foods recently said it processed more than 150,000 Apple Pay transactions in the first three weeks of the service. And Walgreens, the national drug store chain, said in-store mobile payments had doubled since Apple Pay launched.

 

 

Microsoft Announces Office 365 Video, Streaming Service For The Enterprise

November 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft unveiled Office 365 Video, a YouTube-like streaming service where enterprises and large organizations can post in-house video content for communication and training.

“Office 365 Video provides organizations with a secure, company-wide destination for posting, sharing and discovering video content,” said Mark Kashman, a senior product manager with the Office 365 team, in a blog posting.

Kashman touted Video as a tool for internal communications, citing the examples of new-employee orientation, management messaging and worker training. Employees will also be able to contribute to a “Community” section, though most companies will probably frown on cat antic clips.

The service rolls out over the next few days to companies that have registered for Office 365′s First Release early distribution program, then through early 2015 to others.

Video will be available only to subscribers of Office 365′s plans for enterprises — E1 through E4 — and universities (A2 through A4). It will not be offered to consumer subscribers or firms with small business-oriented plans like Business Essentials, Business and Business Premium.

Kashman also said Office 365 plans for government agencies will get Video at some point, but he did not proffer a timeline.

The other requirement is SharePoint Online, an off-premises component of the enterprise and academic plans, but missing from the increasingly popular Office 365 ProPlus, the rent-not-buy plan used by organizations that have decided to retain their back-end services, like SharePoint and Exchange, on premises.

Although Office 365 Video has elements of consumer streaming services like Google’s YouTube, it’s strictly an in-house affair: It will be available only to employees, and then only those whom IT administrators have assigned access rights.

 

 

Can Qualcomm Compete With Intel In The Server Space?

November 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has confirmed that it will branch out from offering its Snapdragon mobile chips and will soon launch a line of server processors.

The firm’s CEO, Steve Mollenkopf, has remained tight lipped about the plans so far but, according to The Wall Street Journal, said during a meeting with financial analysts in New York on Wednesday that the company is working on chips for the data centre.

There’s no timing yet, either, although Mollenkopf said that his firm is currently “engaged with customers”.

Qualcomm is already the world leader in ARM chips for smartphones, and we assume that the company will develop server chips based on ARM’s 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture as rivals such as AMD have done.

The move will place Qualcomm in competition with chip giant Intel, which is currently one of the biggest server chip makers.

Qualcomm announced last month that it had acquired Cambridge-based chipmaker CSR for a hefty $2.5bn (£1.6bn), as the company looks to push further into the Internet of Things (IoT).

The buyout, which comes two months after CSR rejected a takeover bid from Microchip Technology, will see Qualcomm using the British company to push further into the IoT, automotive and mobile communications markets.

CSR rejected an initial bid from Microchip, but reports claim that the firm has until 5pm UK time today to make a better offer.

However, CSR’s board of directors has unanimously accepted Qualcomm’s offer of 900p a share. The closing price at the time of the offer was 660p.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

 

Apple To Bundle Beats Music Into iOS

November 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc will bundle the subscription music service it acquired from Beats into its iOS operating system early next year, according to an article by the Financial Times.

The inclusion of the paid-for Beats service in an iOS software update, which would instantly make it available on millions of iPhones and iPads, could happen as early as March, the daily reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

The move will mark the company’s first big push into subscription music, at a time when downloads from its iTunes are in decline, the paper said.

The service, which is likely to be rebranded under the iTunes label, will compete with music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Soundcloud.

Google Inc said last week that YouTube is rolling out a long-awaited paid monthly music subscription service called YouTube Music Key.

Apple, which bought music streaming and audio equipment company Beats in May for $3 billion, could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

 

IBM Unveils Verse, New Enterprise Email Product

November 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

IBM is going up against cloud-app juggernauts Google and Microsoft with its next generation e-mail client, called Verse, designed to enrich email with social media and analysis.

“We felt we could leverage analytics to build an experience that understands your priorities,” said Jeff Schick, general manager of IBM social solutions, of the app that launched as a private beta on Tuesday. “We had the opportunity to reduce clutter and create priority, and to help people be more efficient in how they master their inbox.”

The company plans to offer Verse in the first quarter of 2015 as a hosted service though the IBM Cloud Marketplace. IBM will also issue apps for both iOS and Android that can access all the same features as the desktop browser version.

“They are addressing known problems, inbox clutter, prioritization and the ability to access different modes of communication, from an integrated user experience,” Rob Koplowitz, research analyst at Forrester who covers collaboration software, wrote in an e-mail.

IBM first announced the new e-mail software in January, under the working name of Mail Next.

Like IBM’s Notes e-mail client, Verse relies on the IBM Domino e-mail server. Unlike Notes, which was built on a client-server architecture, Verse is entirely Web-based. Going forward, IBM will encourage customers to use Verse as an enterprise email client, except for those organizations that have built their own applications on Notes’ Eclipse-based development platform, Schick said.

The company did not reveal pricing of Verse, other than state it will offer a no-cost “freemium” version that would be available for individual users. A version of the software that can be run on-premise will be released later in 2015.

 

 

NVidia Reveals The Tesla K80 GPU

November 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

nVidia has unveiled what it claims is the world’s highest-performing GPU accelerator designed for high performance computing (HPC) applications.

Launched as an addition to the Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, the Tesla K80 dual GPU accelerator is the most powerful in Nvidia’s line-up and is aimed at accelerating a wide range of data analytics and scientific computing machine learning.

“It combines the world’s fastest GPU accelerators, the widely used CUDA parallel computing model, and a comprehensive ecosystem of software developers, software vendors, and data centre system OEMs,” said Nvidia.

The firm explained how the Tesla K80 delivers almost double the performance and double the memory bandwidth of its predecessor, the Tesla K40 GPU accelerator.

“With 10 times higher performance than today’s fastest CPU, it outperforms CPUs and competing accelerators on hundreds of complex analytics and large, computationally intensive scientific computing applications,” the firm added.

The accelerator boasts an enhanced version of Nvidia GPU Boost technology, which boosts applications by dynamically converting power headroom into the optimal performance enhancement for each individual application.

The GPU was designed to tackle “the most difficult computational challenges”, ranging from astrophysics and genomics to quantum chemistry and data analytics.

It is also optimised for deep learning tasks, a segment of the machine learning field which Nvidia says is the fastest growing.

Featuring two GPUs per board, the Tesla K80 dual-GPU accelerator doubles throughput of applications designed to take advantage of multiple GPUs.

It offers 24GB of ultra-fast GDDR5 memory (12GB of memory per GPU) as well as twice the memory of the Tesla K40 GPU, which allows the processing of double-sized datasets.

A 480GBps memory bandwidth offers an increased data throughput so that data scientists can crunch though petabytes of information in half the time compared with the Tesla K10 accelerator.

Nvidia said that the GPU’s 4,992 CUDA parallel processing cores also boost applications by up to 10 times compared with using a CPU alone.

“The Tesla K80 dual-GPU accelerators are up to 10 times faster than CPUs when enabling scientific breakthroughs in some of our key applications, and provide a low energy footprint,” said Wolfgang Nagel, director of the Centre for Information Services and HPC at Technische Universität Dresden in Germany.

“Our researchers use the available GPU resources on the Taurus supercomputer extensively to enable a more refined cancer therapy, understand cells by watching them live, and study asteroids as part of ESA’s Rosetta mission.”

The Tesla K80 dual-GPU accelerator starts shipping today from server manufacturers including Asus, Bull, Cirrascale, Cray, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, Inspur, Penguin, Quanta, Sugon, Supermicro and Tyan.

The Tesla K80 dual-GPU accelerator can also be tried for free on remotely hosted clusters.

Courtesy-TheInq

Snapchat To Offer Mobile Payments Service

November 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Mobile messaging company Snapchat is rolling out a new service that wil allow users to send money to each other, in a partnership with online payments company Square.

The service, dubbed Snapcash, allows Snapchat users to link their debit cards to their account and quickly send money to a contact by starting a chat on a smartphone, typing in a dollar sign and an amount and hitting a green button, Snapchat explained in a post on its official blog.

The move marks the latest sign of expansion plans for Los Angeles-based Snapchat, which lets users exchange photos that automatically disappear after a few seconds. The company has been valued at $10 billion in its most recent fundraising effort, according to media reports, and is considered a growing threat to Web companies including Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc.

“We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you’re dealing with money,” Snapchat said in the post.

The company said that debit card information will be stored by Square and that Square will process the payments, transferring money between bank accounts. Snapchat said that Snapcash is available in the United States for users aged 18 and above.

 

 

Should Encryption Be The Norm?

November 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Encryption should be a matter of priority and used by default. That’s the message from the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the worldwide body in charge of the internet’s technology infrastructure.

The IAB warned in a statement that “the capabilities and activities of attackers are greater and more pervasive than previously known”.

It goes on to say: “The IAB urges protocol designers to design for confidential operation by default. We strongly encourage developers to include encryption in their implementations, and to make them encrypted by default.

“We similarly encourage network and service operators to deploy encryption where it is not yet deployed, and we urge firewall policy administrators to permit encrypted traffic.”

The purpose, the IAB claims, is to instill public trust in the internet after the myriad high-profile cases in which computer traffic has been intercepted, ranging from bank details to email addresses and all points in between.

The news will be unwelcome to the security services, which have repeatedly objected to initiatives such as the default encryption in iOS8 and Android L, claiming that it is in the interest of the population to retain the right to intercept data for the prevention of terrorism.

However, leaked information, mostly from files appropriated by rogue NSA contractor Edward Snowden, suggests that the right of information interception is abused by security services including the UK’s GCHQ.

These allegations include the collection of irrelevant data, the investigation of cold cases not in the public interest, and the passing of pictures of nude ladies to colleagues.

Courtesy-TheInq

Intel Goes Upscale With New MICA Bracelets

November 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Soon to be released bracelets with technology from Intel Corp and design cues from fashion brand Opening Ceremony will connect the wearer with Facebook, Google and Yelp via an AT&Tdata plan,no smartphone necessary.

Called My Intelligent Communication Accessory, or MICA, the snakeskin bracelets are aimed at fashion-conscious women and are an attempt by the two companies to stand out in a growing field of often-clunky smartwatches and fitness brands that have yet to catch on widely with consumers.

“We really approached this first and foremost about why would a woman want to wear this everyday, and how can it be incorporated into her wardrobe,” Humberto Leon, creative director at Opening Ceremony, said in a phone interview last week.

As well as lapis stones, obsidian and an 18k gold coating, the devices include a sapphire curved screen on the inside of the wrist that displays text messages, calendar items and events from Google and Facebook, and recommendations of nearby restaurants and stores from Yelp.

After Intel was late to smartphones and tablets in recent years, Chief Executive Brian Krzanich has been determined to make sure the top chipmaker is at the forefront of future trends in mobile computing.

Krzanich gave the green light for the chipmaker to develop the bracelet with Opening Ceremony after his wife wore a prototype for several days and liked it, he recently said.

Incoming alerts discreetly vibrate the bracelet instead of making a noise. Its $495 price tag includes a two-year data plan with AT&T, which means it does not rely on a smartphone for connectivity, as do most smartwatches, the companies said in a press release.

As well as working with Opening Ceremony, Intel in March bought fitness bracelet maker Basis Science and it has teamed up with watch retailer Fossil Group to develop other wearable computing devices.

 

Facebook Launches Privacy Basic, Put Users In Control

November 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook wants its users to manage their own privacy.

The social network has launched Privacy Basics, a page set up to offer users advice and how-to tips to make sure they have the level of privacy they want for their Facebook profiles.

Facebook also is giving users an early look at changes the company plans on making to its terms of service, data policy and cookies policy. Users have a week to make comments or suggestions about what’s coming.

“Over the past year, we’ve introduced new features and controls to help you get more out of Facebook, and listened to people who have asked us to better explain how we get and use information,” wrote Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer. “Protecting people’s information and providing meaningful privacy controls are at the core of everything we do, and we believe today’s announcement is an important step.”

Facebook has had its share of privacy controversies. It has repeatedly been criticized for its privacy policies and even for the difficulty in using privacy controls.

“This may showcase that Facebook is finally beginning to understand perceptions are important,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “This really isn’t a change in policy but a change in how they communicate what they are doing. This kind of thing can improve trust and, if they keep it up, it should improve customer retention and satisfaction.”

Facebook, he added, may be losing some of the “arrogance” it had previously shown users.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Facebook’s move could encourage a lot of users to increase the privacy around their posts and photos.

“Many people just don’t understand the privacy policy, partially because it’s painfully boring to read,” he said. “By putting it in human speak, users can easily understand what data Facebook collects and what certain settings mean. Anyone who still doesn’t understand it, is just too lazy to go read it or doesn’t care.”

The new Privacy Basics page offers interactive guides to what Facebook says are the most commonly asked questions about how users can control their information.

 

 

 

Has Google Glass Reached The End Of The Line?

November 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After two years of showing up at high-profile events wearing Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin arrived recently to a Silicon Valley event noticeably bare-faced. He’d left his pair in the car, Brin told a reporter. The Googler, who heads up the top-secret lab which developed Glass, has hardly given up on the product — he recently wore his pair to the beach.

But Brin’s timing is not propitious, coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1,500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google Inc itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.

While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.

Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official web site include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter.

“If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There’s no market at this point,” said Tom Frencel, the Chief Executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including the Facebook Inc-owned virtual-reality goggles Oculus Rift.

Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.

 

 

 

Microsoft Rolls Out Skype For Web

November 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft announced that it is launching a beta of Skype for the Web, allowing browser-based video chats that don’t require a separate app.

“We’ve made Skype available on computers, mobile phones, TVs and even games consoles,” wrote Jonathan Watson, Skype product marketing manager for Microsoft, in a blog post. “Expanding to different platforms has helped us grow to over 2 billion daily minutes (that’s over 33 million hours) of voice and video calls…. Now, not only can Skype be used on just about any screen you lay your hands on, but you can also enjoy Skype on a browser.”

Skype for Web, which is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, will be available via Internet Explorer, Chrome on Windows, Firefox or Safari.

“If you already use Skype, go to Skype.com and sign in to see all your contacts and latest conversation history,” wrote Watson. “We’re making Skype for Web available to small number of existing and new users to begin with, and gradually rolling out worldwide in the coming months — look out for an invite when you sign in to your Skype account on Skype.com.”

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said this is a good move for Microsoft because it opens Skype up to more users in more places.

“The requirement to have a client means one might not always be able to use Skype,” he said. “For example, if I’m on a shared computer, say in an airport, I can’t use Skype…. Maybe I can’t get on the airport Wi-Fi, but there’s a public Internet terminal or I might want to use a friend’s computer. But with Skype Web, now I can. So now Skype can be pervasive across all devices, not just ones that I happen to own.”

 

 

 

Better 911 Call Location Finding Coming To Mobile Phones

November 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Emergency responders will be able to better locate callers who dial 911 on their cellphones from indoors as the U.S. wireless industry improves caller-location for the majority of such calls in the next few years.

Historically, satellite and other technologies have helped emergency responders find people who called from outdoors, while landlines commonly automatically provided dispatchers with an address. Cellphone calls from indoors, however, have been tougher to locate because walls weaken signals.

Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US have reached a deal with public-safety groups to get specific location data to 911 dispatchers for 40 percent of wireless 911 calls within two years and 80 percent within six years.

The wireless association CTIA announced the agreement with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials and the National Emergency Number Association on Friday.

The deal marks a milestone in the long-running effort to help first-responders get to emergencies quickly as people increasingly rely on cellphones for 911 calls and to improve their ability to locate emergencies in places such as schools, shopping malls and hotels.

The Federal Communications Commission has long required data from wireless 911 calls to include location information based on outdoor technologies. But technology has been insufficient to direct responders to specific floors, rooms or particular areas of a building.

The FCC earlier this year challenged the wireless industry to help responders locate emergencies indoors, within 50 meters horizontally and 3 meters vertically, estimating it could save more than 10,000 lives every year.

The “heightened location accuracy,” available to supporting networks and handsets, will find callers through nearby devices connected to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth that will be logged with a specific location in a special emergency-services database.

Over time, the wireless carriers plan to ensure each handset can turn on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity in emergency-call instances, if it is disabled.

The FCC had proposed the rollout timeframe of two years for 67 percent of cellphone calls and five years for 80 percent, though the companies and public safety groups reached a slightly different consensus.